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One of the main things to remember is the George Jones ‘elastic band’ theory of power – that power resources change over time according to the particular circumstances of the time. Often, questions ask about extent to which Cabinet government is threatened…is relatively straightforward.Yes – threatened because PM is helped by party discipline and control over party; because power resources are flexible – there is no requirement to consult Cabinet, there are only conventions; institutional innovations – creation of a mini PM department for instance – have strengthened PM; rise of independent power of the PM – presidentialism theory – through direct appeal to public via media it appears that PM is the most powerful political actor etc etc No – at certain times (of weakness) the PM requires the protection of collective cabinet government; authority based on support of ‘big beasts’ in cabinet; even though institutional supports have increased they are far smaller than ie the US president, so PM still relies heavily on Ministers who have their own departments and set of civil servants working for them; related to this is the idea that government is so complex that one individual cannot control the whole show; ultimately, while Cabinet government in the traditional sense ie of collective decision making around a table doesn’t really exist, Cabinet is still crucial because in the UK system government is still formally a collective enterprise There are related questions about whether PM power has increased There may well be a question also about the effect of coalition on PM power (p265-270). 22-24 Secretaries of State who each (with some exceptions) take charge of a government ministry or department.However it is true also that the power of individual Prime Ministers varies according to political circumstances.
It is kept alive by the fact that the prime ministers authority is linked to the backing he or she receives from the ‘big beasts’ of the cabinet, some of whom may enjoy such widespread support within the government and party that they are effectively ‘unsackable’. Devolution, the HRA, the European Union and other developments such as the normalisation of the use of Referenda have limited the role of Cabinet.
The Coalition Agreement for Stability and Reform in 2010 was necessitated by the failure of the Conservatives to obtain a majority in the 2010 General Election. He was forced to share power with his Deputy Nick Clegg (who had a veto over Lib dem appointments to the government and cabinet). (Cameron, Clegg, Osborne, Alexander)supports the Prime Minister and ensure the effectives running of government.
Click here for some detailed resources from Ashbourne College and here for some links on the Premiership of Theresa May.
Click here for a short critique of the Presidentialisation thesis and here for a more detailed article Political scientists from the 1950s to the 1990s focused their attention on the range of factors which may have contributed to the transition from Cabinet Government to Prime Ministerial Government.
In any case, however, from the 1990s onwards a new approach to the study of the Centre of British Government was developed [particularly by Professors R. Smith ] known as the Core Executive Model of British Government.
The Core Executive is the network of institutions at the centre of British Government including the Prime Minister, the Prime Minister's Office, the Cabinet, the Cabinet Office, Cabinet Committees, the Bank of England, the individual Departments of State [among which the Treasury, the Home Office and the Foreign Office are the most significant], senior MPs and even, perhaps the representatives of major insider pressure groups.Term was coined by Bagehot in 19th Century but the theory is seen as largely outdated. Took the idea of PM dominance and further developed it into his presidentialism thesis.Under this thesis there has been a growth of ‘spatial leadership’, a tendency towards ‘populist outreach’, increasingly personalized election campaigns, the adoption of personal mandates, wider use of special advisors. This partly means that Prime Ministers have presented themselves as “outsiders” to the main thrust of government, Thatcher reminding us that she was a grocer’s daughter, and Major emphasising his more humble background and limited formal education.It is argued that the British PM has become more presidential in the following senses.We might conclude that although here are some convergences in the nature of Prime Ministerial and Presidential roles so that the UK PM could be said to be becoming more "presidential" in the context of the British system of government, the significance of these changes should perhaps not be overstated.Each is appointed by the PM under the power of patronage, and each can be removed in a reshuffle.Cabinet as a whole endorses rather than creates theory that cabinet as a whole decides upon and co-ordinates policy. Cabinet debates, formalises and co-ordinates policy for the whole of the government. It provides a reminder that, despite the growth in prime ministerial power, no PM can survive if he or she loses the support of the cabinet. Cabinet discussion is often dominated by a dirigeste approach.However by the late 1980s she was subjected to increasing criticism as a result of here confrontational political style, the disunity within the Conservative Party over Europe, the declining success of her economic policies and the problems associated with the introduction of the Poll Tax all of which contributed to her resignation in 1990.It is here that we might refer to Professor George Jones interesting " elastic band theory of Prime Ministerial Power": a Prime Minister such as Mrs Thatcher may stretch her authority over the Cabinet but eventually the Cabinet may reassert its authority: the elastic band swings back and the PM is gone!Rejects simplistic notions of Prime Ministerial power in favour of the idea that power is a variable distributed amongst a number of key actors at the heart of government and that power flows variably over time between the PM, the cabinet, cabinet committees, PM Office, Cabinet Office, party and parliament.The Core Executive is the network of institutions at the centre of British Government including the Prime Minister, the Prime Minister’s Office, the Cabinet, the Cabinet Office, Cabinet Committees, the Bank of England, the individual Departments of State [among which the Treasury, the Home Office and the Foreign Office are the most significant], senior MPs and even, perhaps the representatives of major insider pressure groups.